Father’s Day is approaching, and it’s a first for me. The first one without my dad. I know many of you reading this are in the same boat due to many different storms. Mine was a surprise attack. Literally. A heart attack that no one suspected. It swooped in, off the radar, no alert or warning, and left me floating here in this sea of life without the man who for many years redirected my sails when they got off course.
I’m a teacher, and encountering the fatherless is a daily occurrence for me. Recently one of my students wrote of his experience adrift in the Dadless Sea. He told of floating along making frequent stops on islands where he would meet a new man, hoping he and his mom could drop anchor and stay, only to find out that they had only tied temporarily to that shore. He painted an image he had seen many times as a younger kid of other boys walking to their cars after a football game, dads holding their sweaty shoulder pads, laughing and joking together as they relived the victories and defeats of the game. There was a visceral yearning coursing through the veins of his essay. I mourned his loss as I mourned my own.
A couple of days ago my oldest daughter and I were talking about my dad as we drove down the highway to pick up the younger one from cheerleading camp. I spoke of Father’s Day and wishing there was a way to ship a gift across space and time to heaven. I chuckled at the thought of all these heavenly dads and granddads receiving ties, coffee mugs, and fishing gear from their earthly kids. You know how the owls deliver mail in the Harry Potter books? Well, in my mind’s eye, I could envision doves swooping in on the heavenly host, dropping the gifts, little parachutes deploying, and all those clichéd items finding their recipients. We laughed.
But in all seriousness, I told her that I was sorry that she had only had a grandfather for a short time in her life. I think back to hammering, sanding, and sawing in the garage, memories I built with my granddad. I’m sorry she won’t have more of those moments.
This is what she says in response. “Be that as it may, Mom, things are still pretty good.”
And, you know? She’s right. This boat I’m floating in isn’t leaky; it was built to withstand the storms. I had a great sailing instructor. And, these are some friendly waters.
Thanks to my daughter, I’ve now got a killer idea for a Father’s Day present, or at least, a pretty darn good way to honor Dad. While I’ve still got time on earth here with my family, we’re not running from life’s harsh realities. We’re not hunkering down in a storm shelter, hands over our heads, ducking the forces of nature. Instead, we’re thanking God for all the grace we’re given and choosing to see and share the good.
My dad had the foresight to write his own obituary about 10 years before his actual death, so we weren’t saddled with that daunting task. In it, he eschewed the notion of head stones, grave markers, and things of that ilk. They were fine for others, just not for him. He hoped that we, his survivors, would be the markers. Listening to the words of my daughter, I think I get it.
So for all of you who are sailing towards this Father’s Day without a dad, my hope for you is that you’re able to say, “Be that as it may, things are still pretty good.” And for all of you dad-type guys out there, look for the kid walking off the football field with his mom. Walk over to him, punch him in the shoulder, carry his sweaty shoulder pads and say, “Good game, son.”